Ecotourism in North Carolina
June 2, 2014
As summer approaches and the sun warms us up, people will start planning their summer vacations. Tourism can have a big impact on a region not only financially, but also environmentally, so it is important to be mindful when planning your next vacation. Ecotourism within our state is booming and there are all sorts of options of ways to relax, learn, explore, and have fun, while stimulating the local economy and minimizing negative environmental impacts. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
The principles of ecotourism are:
· Minimize impact
· Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
· Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
· Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
· Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
· Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate
North Carolina is unique in that one day you can be hiking in the mountains and the next swimming along the coast. With all of its vacation options, this state provides many ways to take a break while following ecotourism’s principles.
Some great ecotourism locations are:
· The Outer Banks: The Outer Banks are a beautiful natural wonder, but they also have a very delicate ecosystem that is vulnerable to harmful tourist practices. Sand erosion is particularly an issue in this area and pedestrian activities can exacerbate the problem, so it is important that visitors stay on marked paths and practice “leave no trace”. The local economy is very reliant on the tourist industry – in 2003 tourist spent $600 million in the Outer Banks.
· Red Wolf Coalition: A more specific option, the Red Wolf Coalition is located in Tyrell County and allows the public to be involved with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery program. In addition to advocating for the long-term survival of red wolf populations, tourists can hike, bike, paddle, bird watch, join a wolf howling, camp, and fish in this beautiful setting.
· Appalachian Mountains: A mountain escape is always a great vacation option, and there are a multitude of outdoor activities that support the natural environment while simultaneously allowing you to enjoy it. The National Park Service has a collection of all the National Parks in North Carolina, and supporting National Parks helps make sure we can preserve these national treasures into the future.
NC Green Travel is a great resource to find businesses within the tourism industry that follow sustainable practices. East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism also provides lots of information about why sustainable tourism is so important and how you can easily adopt it into your travel plans. Even when we are on vacation, our actions have a big impact – let’s make it a positive one!